Tight End Derek Carrier
Beloit, Wis., home to the world's largest can of chili – it's worth Googling – and the small division-III school of Beloit College, the place Oakland Raiders tight end Derek Carrier called home for a time.
Until now, you probably haven't heard of the mighty Beloit Buccaneers – I certainly wasn't familiar with their work – but that small school served as a stepping stone on Carrier's path to the NFL, which has proved to be quite the journey thus far.
An exclusive look at photos from the first day of the offseason program at Raiders HQ.
Carrier was once a wide receiver from Beloit College, setting multiple school records during his senior season. His 189 receptions, 3,111 receiving yards, and 29 touchdowns are the most in school history, and in his final season with the team, he was dubbed the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Private College Player of the Year. While he found success as a wide out, it's not the position he would eventually play at the next level.
Coming out of college, the Edgerton, Wis., native went undrafted, but the Silver and Black gave him his first job in the NFL, signing him as an undrafted free agent on May 10, 2012. Carrier participated in the team's Rookie Mini-Camp, and had the opportunity to suit up during the Raiders preseason.
"It's been great, it's been a lot of fun, so many different guys, so many different skill sets, everyone brings something different to the table," Carrier said back in 2012. "I've been able to take bits and pieces of what I've learned from not only the coaches but other receivers to make my game better."
Unfortunately, the Raiders and Carrier would part ways.
His next stops included stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, and most recently the Los Angeles Rams over the course of six, professional seasons. But, as Carrier pointed out, he was able to take bits and pieces of what he learned from the Raiders coaches and receivers to further enhance his game, which I'm positive he's done with other teams during his tenure in the NFL.
Whether you were fond of your first love, or things ended on a sour note, time gives you a different outlook on things – cliché, I know, but still true. After leaving the Raiders in 2012, Carrier is back once again to don the Silver and Black in 2018, and it's something that feels right to him.
"It almost feels like a homecoming," he said with a smile. "This is where it all started for me, where my NFL journey began. From humble beginnings, coming from a really small division-III school, so it's great to be back."
While traveling along his journey in the league, Carrier made the change to tight end, which has benefitted him, and blocking along the line of scrimmage is what he'll primarily be doing in Head Coach Jon Gruden's offense. The 27 year old can catch, as a former wide receiver that's not a problem, but in his newfound role, Carrier prides himself on being a blocker.
"Whenever you're able to do more on the field, whether that's running with the ball in your hands, or run-blocking, it opens things up for your offense, and it opens things up for your teammates so you can move the ball more efficiently," he said. "Ever since I made the transition to tight end, one thing that I always kind of wanted to put on film from my game was just to be physical."
I've said it time and again, but Gruden is hand-selecting each of the players on the Raiders revamped roster, and Carrier fits the criteria for what he's trying to instill among his group: a gritty toughness and will provide a physical presence on the field.
"Coming straight from Coach, that's something I pride myself in, and I know a lot of other players do as well," he continued. "But, it's essential to be a good blocking tight end, and be able to move the ball down the field in the run-game. It's something that often gets overlooked and [goes] unnoticed, but it's a very essential aspect of the game."
Carrier might not have come from the most glamourous school, or have the flashiest position on the field, but don't let either of those things shroud your perception of him.
With Carrier and fellow tight end Lee Smith paired with a dominant offensive line, there will be no shortage of high-quality blocking next season.